The mid-life changes of women are seen as synonymous with ageing and disease. However, I like to view these transitional years as marking the beginning of the second half of a woman's life, often a time of self-empowerment and certainly a natural process (not a disease) that can be a rewarding experience and a positive event in a woman's life.

Menopause is when periods stop or become irregular as a result of decreasing function of the ovaries. It is usually a retrospective diagnosis, made when there has been no period for a year. Natural menopause occurs on average between 48 and 53 years of age. As the ovaries age, they gradually cease producing their hormones. These transitional months or years are called the climacteric or perimenopausal stage. Symptoms include the well-known hot flushes and night sweats, low libido, vaginal dryness, insomnia and depression.

There are four fundamental causes of hormonal disruption to menopause: stress, poor nutrition, blood sugar imbalance and excess toxins. In particular, years of chronic stress exhaust the adrenal glands, which must take over oestrogen production from the declining ovaries. If the adrenals are already exhausted, they become overloaded, causing night sweats.

Menopausal symptoms are also related to body size. Lean, undernourished woman have less oestrogen produced in their fatty tissues, so there is less oestrogen to buffer the declining ovaries' production. As a result, these women suffer more menopausal symptoms. However, obesity causes blood sugar problems and insulin resistance, which also disrupt the hormonal balance. It's about a balance of weight and avoiding extremes. Furthermore, symptoms have been shown to worsen with the use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.

Hot flushes & sweating
These are due to the oestrogen decline, to Lutenizing hormone surges in response to the decline, and indirectly to exhausted adrenal glands that cannot adequately take over the role of hormone production from the ovaries. Sage is a wonderful herb specifically for flushes: a popular home remedy is to chop up 6 fresh sage leaves, soak them overnight in lemon juice, strain and drink the juice diluted in water for 7 - 10 days. This will usually control flushing and sweating as well as improve digestion and concentration, although it should not be continued for longer than 2 weeks. Obviously, it is important to avoid hot spicy foods, extremely hot temperature foods and drinks, stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine, anxiety and emotional upsets which can all trigger hot flushes.

Vaginal, skin and eye dryness
Black Cohosh is the herb that works best, and there have been a number of open and double-blind trials in Germany to verify its traditional use for alleviating these symptoms. Vitamin E is the most important vitamin for menopause and older women in general as it is highly antioxidant, repairs mucous membranes, improves hormone production and circulation, and decreases dryness. Simply opening a vitamin E capsule and applying it topically to the vagina is effective as well. It is claimed by some to be the 'anti-ageing' vitamin. However, if there is high blood pressure, start with a low dose of 200 IU/day.

Fluid retention
Both celery and parsley work well, either juiced or in salads daily. If symptoms are severe, the juice will be the more effective of the two. Or try dandelion leaf tea which is available at most health food stores.

Depression & anxiety
St John's wort (Hypericum) is widely used in Europe. It is prescribed by doctors in Germany and has been the subject of many scientific studies. It helps restore the integrity of the nervous system, calm anxiety, and is anti-depressant. However, it cannot be taken with heart medication, other anti-depressant drugs (SSRIs) or HIV medication. Additionally, oats and lavender are specific for depression and anxiety as nourishes and calms the nervous system. Even having rolled oat porridge or muesli for breakfast will make a difference.

Poor Memory/concentration
Gingko and rosemary both increase circulation to the brain and the extremities and are therefore very beneficial for memory as are quality fish oils.

Low libido
To increase sexual desire and drive, we need to strengthen the circulation to the genital organs and pelvic region with pelvic floor exercises. However, it is often essential to decrease fatigue, exhaustion and stress, while increasing stamina and energy so that we actually feel like having sex! Also increasing vaginal lubrication as discussed above is important.

All herbs and supplements should be prescribed by a qualified herbalist to ensure appropriate dosage and quality Practitioner Only products for therapeutic benefits.

Naturopathic Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms:
There are many very effective herbal and nutritional remedies for all menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, vaginal, skin and eye dryness, fluid retention, increased weight, depression and anxiety, poor memory and concentration, low libido. All herbs and supplements should be prescribed by a qualified herbalist to ensure appropriate dosage and quality Practitioner Only products for therapeutic benefits.

The oestrogen decline is buffered to ensure a smoother transition using specific herbal medicines individually prescribed which work directly on the adrenal glands, the ovaries, the pituitary gland and any other endocrine system involved, eg. thyroid can often be involved. Some herbs contain oestrogen receptor modifiers which help regulate these declining levels without any risk of over-stimulation so are useful for women who have a history of breast or other reproductive cancers as compared to hormone replacement therapy, HRT.

Dietary and lifestyle changes are necessary for successful resolution of perimenopausal symptoms and for optimal maintenance of your health long term. Extensive information and resources are given to help you make healthier choices.

Normalising insulin and blood sugar levels, if necessary, is an essential part of treatment by using weight management, exercise, stress reduction techniques, dietary advice, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

You will be referred to your doctor or GP for extensive blood testing unless this has already been done so as to give a clear picture of any post-menopausal health problems that we want to prevent now eg. cholesterol , bone density, cardiovascular checks, breast health. Focus is not only on alleviating perimenopausal symptoms but also on your long term health to ensure optimal vitality for many years to come.

Using the work of Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom and ThetaHealing(R) the emotional connections to menopause are discussed to address any underlying emotional issues. This is the time to transform fears of ageing and sexual decline into confirmed beliefs of wisdom, sexual empowerment and creativity. Claudette's supportive approach makes this journey towards optimum health and balance rewarding and empowering.